Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (February 2019)

February is too fast!

I almost couldn’t keep up (xD) BUT we’re here now so all’s good. Welcome once again to the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (!!)

As some of you may or may not know, February actually marks the first real anniversary of the Round-Up (since the first one for 2018 wasn’t until the end of February) so now we’ve officially had a full year of recommendations! Or, well, we will once we get through this one. Before that however, if you have no clue what all this is —

Basically I put together a post featuring Japanese music that I’ve listened to and subsequently recommend to you guys at the end of every month. Keep in mind that these songs don’t all have to have been released within that timeframe, as they might also be just songs that I only just discovered myself, or songs that I just want to feature and recommend on a whim (xD)

The songs that I’ll end up featuring will all come from YouTube links of their respective PVs so there is a fair bit of restriction on what I’ll be able to put on here, but I find that keeping it all to one platform ensures the most universality (with remedies easily available in the case of region restrictions). This also allows me to put together a playlist for every song that gets put on the Round-Up that I’ll update and share at the end of each post.

^Figured instead of coming up with new ways of explaining what the Round-Up is every month, I’d just stick with a standard one, Haha!

With that, grab your favorite pair of earphones (if you’re a speakers kinda guy/gal that’s cool too), set your audio levels to a comfortable volume, and play those vids~!!

ーー

landscape
by afloat storage
This song heals me.

“Wholeness” is a trait that I very rarely come across not only in Japanese music, but for music in general. Specifically the kind of singing that I listen to of course, which lends itself to vocalists in a band setting, as opposed to what we can call vocal stylists — singers whose breadth and depth of voice hold their own in a performance. In that respect Inami Mayu’s voice is very whole; it can bend and break at the right places; it can be both strong and gentle at the right times; and overall it’s the sort of wholeness that’s really just a treat to the ears. I’ve long since believed (and continue to believe) in the untapped potential of afloat storage, and landscape just solidifies that fact further. At present, Inami Mayu has gone on to do a bit of solo work, but in my opinion this band setup suits her best.

カワキヲアメク/kawaki wo ameku
by 美波 (minami)
Minami is who you’d get if by chance both aimer and sayuri raised someone to perform in their respective music styles

It’s honestly quite magical hearing Minami for the first time, to which I’m sure a lot of you might already have, thanks to the opening theme for Winter 2019’s Domestic na Kanojo which you’ll recognize as our featured track here. On the one hand you have aimer’s deceptively dynamic vocal range and innate heartfulness towards her songs, and on the other you have さユリ(sayuri)’s unabashed singing style and her sense for AcoGui. The end result is a brash, emotional, and sincere young artist who has no qualms singing her heart out whilst certainly sounding nothing short of excellent doing so. Now, whether or not Minami does in fact draw inspiration from those two artists is beyond me (some of you may even draw better parallels to more similar artists) but make no doubt about it, either way we’re witness to something very special here.

雨のように泣いてやれ/ame no you ni naiteyare
by NakamuraEmi
Y’all ready for a throwback?

I believe I’ve said it before in one of her features in the Round-Up last year, but one (or at least I myself) can’t help but appreciate what NakamuraEmi is doing here. It’s very rare that you’ll see Hip-Hop/R&B guys nowadays unironically throw hands in the air while bobbing and weaving to the beat. I mean, that’s not really indicative of a good artist, but what it does show is a pure love for rhythm and an “old-school” kind of soul — which NakamuraEmi exemplifies further by going with a 80’s-themed discotheque PV with Ame no You ni Naiteyare (complete with afros and 540p resolution! lol). Contrary to what the visuals would suggest however, the song itself is more on the mellower side with more of a Jazz/almost Bossa Nova sway to it. It’s a very… honest track in that, what we’re seeing and hearing here is NakamuraEmi performing the music she wants, and that’s always nice to see from artists.

knock!knock!
by sora tob sakana
sakana coming up with bangers (!!) hold up

Those sitar (yes, sitar) riffs caught me so off guard (xD), as is always the case with me and sora tob sakana, where each new release from them just plain surprises me. Not so much the genre-defining sort of surprises (the likes of Maison book girl for instance come up with) but more so the little things they add to their repertoire which to me feels much more of a testament to their growth than the former. Now, I’m well aware that these praises are better directed towards the people behind the composition of these songs, and I do recognize that the real back bone of sora tob sakana’s music lies in their instrumentation, so do know that I view sakana (and most idol groups in general) as a collaborative effort more often than not. This isn’t to take away from what sakana can do singing-wise (I actually think they hit some nice strides with their vocal work here), but we’d do well to remember that there are also good minds behind these girls, and with each new release I feel as though those minds find new ways to bring the best out of them.

DENKOUSEKKA
by ポルカドットスティングレイ(polkadot stingray)
Sure, Shizuku.. I’ll take a bite >///<

While they didn’t get to appear in last year’s Round-Up Awards (despite having three strong showings in ICHIDAIJI, Rhythmy, and Pandora Box), make no mistake, Polakodot Stingray will always be treated as J-music royalty around these parts. They are a band that I’ve followed just before they started to hit their stride, and to this day I continue to get floored by how popular they’ve since become. Of course, this is in large part of their distinct aggressive Alternative Pop/Rock style, but I would think that the primary appeal point for PDSR is in their charismatic approach to performing. Vocalist SHIZUKU is the driving force of this charisma for sure with they way she carries herself and I do think it’s pretty safe to say that she’s the “face” of PDSR — much like how Sheen Ringo was for Tokyo Jihen. We make a lot of comparisons between artists young and old here, and in my opinion Polkadot Stingray is truly this generation’s Tokyo Jihen, with Shizuku being the Sheena Ringo of today.

放課後てれぽ〜と/houkago terepooto
by さよならポニーテール (sayonara ponytail)
A couple years late to the SayoPony appreciation train

Eight years to be exact, but as they say, better late than never right? (xD) At the very least the group released their first major album around that time, and I just assume that their brand of low blood pressure J-pop (to borrow a Soutaisei-Riron description) took off from there. While the extent of my research leads me to believe that they did enjoy a cult following, it does appear that people have had mixed views towards SayoPony in lieu of their inception as a group. Not a whole lot is known about SayoPony, other than that they are a “fictional band” created by artist Yuritan, in the sense that all five singers remain to only be identifiable by the illustrated persona assigned to them — where some fans found a certain disconnect from not being able to see the faces behind the voices (the girls in the PV aren’t them either). I don’t mind it myself personally, but maybe I’m just so used to the practice now of not sometimes having a face to connect to a voice. If anything, it doesn’t really take away from this very pleasant track that we have here.

Ancient Story
by 熊川みゆ (kumagawa miyu “kumamiyu”)
It’s looking to be a good year for AcoGui

In between the fast-rising Pop/R&B hopeful Takeuchi Anna (whom you might remember from last month’s Round-Up)  and the immensely talented Minami who we just had up top, we’re closing off this month with burgeoning AcoGui stylist Kumagawa Miyu. ‘Ancient Story’ marks kumamiyu’s second straight appearance on here and honestly I can see her becoming a Round-Up regular (huge honor I know lol) if she keeps coming up with such fun acoustic tracks like this one. Similar to Blue Bird; Ancient Story is again more Power Pop oriented and up-tempo compared to kumamiyu’s earlier releases; but unlike the purposeful-sounding Blue Bird (and really most if not all of her other songs which lean more on the mellower side), Ancient Story just comes across as very bright and cheery. As an added bonus of sorts, the PV is a bit of a slideshow of what appears to be kumamiyu herself at various points in her life. I don’t believe she’s ever shown herself on one of her PVs prior (and we were just talking about artists not having faces too xD)

MUST LISTEN
landscape
by afloat storage
I adore this song, and I must have played it everyday for a good two weeks after finally getting a hold of afloat storage’s first released single. Beautiful in every sense of the word, which I do think says a lot considering the genre, and is a testament to just how good bands under the radar can be.

ーー

The playlist is live and updated. If you haven’t yet, feel free to save it to your YT’s side bar so you can go back to it whenever 😀

Feature Lists and posts are always on the docket (despite my lackadaisical once-a-month posting schedule would lead you to believe) but hey you never know, so stay tuned (xD). If you have any playlist suggestions that I could do OR you want to work on something Japanese Music related with me you can either send a message through my Contact page, or just drop a line in the comments below. While you’re down there, lemme know your thoughts on this month’s round-up won’t ya? I’d be happy if you did 🙂

Last but not the least, if you’ve listened to anything good this month, feel free to share~!

Happy Listening~!! And till next post!

 

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8 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (February 2019)

  1. How did I miss a Nakamura Emi release?? She’s been on my radar since she sang the Megalo Box ending theme! I’m almost mad at myself for that one, but glad you featured her so I knew where to look!

    Also, highly agree with you on Sora Tob Sakana. This month’s release surpassed any expectations I had for them. I’m really hoping they continue to trend in a similar direction with this release!

    As always, thanks for this months recommendations! Looking forward to seeing what else you find in the coming months as always!

    • I was surprised when I saw it too at first (xD), and eyy, no worries, I got your back for these releases Rise

      Ooh, you listen to sora to sakana too!
      I’m impressed with each release from them as I don’t think they’ve taken any steps back in terms of bettering their music. Very excited to see where they go from here.

      Likewise, thanks for dropping by again!
      I’m happy you found this month’s recommendations to your liking 🙂

      • Thanks fam, I appreicate it lol

        I do! I haven’t kept a close eye on them, but some mutual friends are big fans so they’re on my radar. I will be keeping a closer eye on them.

        No problem as always! New music is all good in my book!

  2. Man, that NakamuraEmi song was certainly a surprise (mostly because of the MV lol). I did love listening to it though, and I think I’ve said before in one of my posts that I didn’t exactly think that Japanese artists could make good hip-hop/R&B/soul music… but I was definitely proven wrong when I discovered artists like BRADIO, SIRUP, Nujabes and I guess now NakamuraEmi haha! But in her case, this song was great; her vocal styling and the overall music meshed together really, really well.

    I think I’ve gotten used to Polkadot Stingray’s transition towards making more alternative rock/pop style songs, simply cause I believe they do it pretty damn well. The whole Uchoten album was a great listening experience (well I’ll probably enjoy anything Polkadot Stingray releases lmao), and like you mentioned, it’s mainly because of how much fun PS seems to be having when performing these songs. Shizuku is just something else compared to other bands I’ve listened to and she’s such a great frontwoman for this band!

    SayoPony miiight be a group I’ll get into now (lol). I loved the mellow pop sound, especially when paired up with their soft vocals.

    Overall nice set of music this month! As for suggestions, the music I’ve been listening to recently has definitely been centered towards seiyuu/idol stuff, mainly because I was hyped up for Ogura Yui’s new album lol; she has a pretty fun song that I’ve had on repeat for the past few weeks or so (https://youtu.be/Po7QKoLVpr8). Also been listening to the most recent albums of Minase Inori and Hanazawa Kana, which made me wonder why I didn’t discover their solo stuff sooner. Especially HanaKana, some songs off her brand new album just blew my mind with how good they were (https://soundcloud.com/user-725498237/0ba6gxzizorw).

    And speaking of Inorin and HanaKana, Yorimoi’s insert songs is all I’ve really listened to today haha, especially the one that was most notably in episode 12. saya is just a great artist 😀

    • I get what you mean. Soul especially right? I surmise that the common Western understanding of soul music lends itself to “deeper” and “lower” sounds, where Japanese music in general can be described as very “high”. In that regard NakamuraEmi is such an anomaly I feel like. She definitely has soul for sure, but there’s a certain disconnect with her vocals that makes songs by her just that much more appealing

      I’m of two minds with PDSRs (very) subtle genre shift. I like the messier/grittier alt. rock from them as a personal preference, but I do acknowledge too that “going pop” is just the natural progression for bands that breach the mainstream. It’s not like their old sound is gone or anythnig though and it’s definitely something they can (and do occasionally) pull out every now and again in their releases; like ‘Pandora Box’ and ‘Himitsu’ in Uchouten (all that said ‘Bakemono Darake no Machi’ is probs my favorite song out of that album, HAHA!)

      SayoPony is such pure fun, lol, would definitely recommend the band SoutaiseiRiron if you liked ’em. Same energy and all (xD)

      Thanks Al! Likewise, thanks for dropping by when you do 😀 Seiyuu/Idol is admittedly something I’m not all that well-versed in outside of LL!, petit milady (and just Yuuki Aoi in general because :3) and maybe some character songs here and there so these tracks are a nice change of pace really. I actually have to remind myself how good of a singer HanaKana can be every now and again.

      Oooooh, I looove saya’s insert songs in Yorimoi (and I just plain love Yorimoi too xD) ‘Sora wo Miagete’ gives me chills every time I remember how the series used it (this one in particular still brings tears to my eyes https://streamable.com/l3wfd). I hope she continues to do more music in the future.

      • Definitely. And one good example of that, I’d say, would be BRADIO. I mean, the first time I heard them do the OP for Death Parade, I immediately knew they were legit good at expressing the disco/soul genre and also mixing it really nicely with rock (also the fact that frontman Shingyoji Takaaki reminded me so much of Michael Jackson lol). But I do believe that NakamuraEmi did a great attempt at creating a traditional-sounding soul track.

        Now that you mention it, I do notice that common pop genre progression shown with a lot of bands (lol). I myself just hope that they kinda maintain this mixture of the old and new styles of PDSR in future released (maybe a bit more of the messier alt rock like you mentioned), since it’s quite enjoyable. And yessss, “Bakemono Darake no Machi” is also my favorite track 😛 When I first heard it in the album trailer, I was super surprised at how unique it is from their other, usual music. (speaking of the trailer, I was really bummed out about Apple Music not having the bonus track on that album, that “unplugged” version of Midori sounded incredible)

        Pretty much the same, I didn’t really get into seiyuu/idol solo stuff until very recently. But now that I’ve listened to a bunch songs from a handful of voice actresses, I just can’t stop lol (I heard Naobou has a new album coming out soon so that’ll be one to look forward to). I did take a listen to petit milady for my most recent roundup post, and they’re definitely an interesting duo to listen to haha! I can tell they have a ton of fun performing together. Also my bad, I didn’t notice the Soundcloud link broke so here’s that HanaKana song if you didn’t catch it (https://clyp.it/ceojlbbv)

        Oh yeah, I also loved hearing that song during the running scene in episode 2. Madhouse did an excellent job playing certain songs at the right moments 😛

        • Huh, I guess he kinda does sound like MJ a bit (xD)

          It’s a phenomenon for sure, but that’s just how it is. I flubbed my comment a bit up top but yeah, at the very least it’s not like PDSR has completely moved away from their old sound so we have that to hold on to (I know -_- I got the recochoku digital album myself and that also didn’t include the bonus track)

          Oooooh, “Pan” is totally not what I was expecting it to sound like at all, HAHA!

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